January 8, 2011 / 11:04 AM / 7 years ago

Obama urges end to 'symbolic battles' in Congress

WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama urged newly empowered Republicans on Saturday not to wage "symbolic battles" against him but to instead work together to help spur job growth and economic recovery.

Obama issued his appeal in his weekly radio address after Republicans took power in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, setting up potentially fierce fights with the president and his Democrats on spending, debt and healthcare.

"Our fundamental mission must be to accelerate hiring and growth," Obama said.

He touted as an example of bipartisan cooperation a massive compromise tax cut package approved by Congress last month that he said had contributed to "more optimistic economic forecasts for the year ahead."

Obama cautiously welcomed Friday's U.S. Labor Department report that unemployment in December fell to 9.4 percent from 9.8 percent. But the rise of 103,000 in non-farm payrolls fell short of economists' expectations.

"We know that these numbers can bounce around from month to month. But the trend is clear," he said. "The pace of hiring is picking up.

Turning to the political front, Obama kept up his push for increased bipartisanship since his Democrats were trounced in the November congressional elections.

"What we can't do is refight the battles of the past two years that distract us from the hard work of moving our economy forward," he said.

"What we can't do is engage in the kinds of symbolic battles that so often consume Washington while the rest of America waits for us to solve problems," he said.

Resurgent Republicans have vowed to undo Obama's healthcare reform plan, but the effort took a hit on Thursday when congressional budget analysts said repeal would add billions of dollars to the federal budget deficit.

Democrats, who still control the Senate despite losses in last year's elections, have promised to protect the healthcare law, Obama's signature legislative victory. The Republican drive to overturn it is thus seen as largely symbolic. (Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; editing by Todd Eastham)

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